Belgium’s Nacer Chadli and Marouane Fellaini made World Cup history as their side came from two goals down to beat Japan in a thrilling round of 16 encounter.
Japan led 2-0 thanks to goals from Genki Haraguchi and Takashi Inui in a stunning seven-minute spell after half-time, the Group H runners-up seeking a first appearance in the last eight.
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But a double substitution and a switch to more direct tactics paid dividends for Belgium as Jan Vertonghen’s looping header gave Roberto Martinez’s side a lifeline in the 69th minute.
Fellaini headed home a pinpoint Eden Hazard left-wing cross to level the scores and in the fourth minute of added time, Chadli completed one of the all-time great World Cup comebacks.
Kevin De Bruyne and Thomas Meunier combined to set up Chadli for a close-range finish that means Belgium will face Brazil in the quarter-finals on Friday.
And the impact made by Fellaini and Chadli means Belgium became the first team in the history of the World Cup’s knockout rounds to have two substitutes score off the bench.
— OptaJohan (@OptaJohan) July 2, 2018
“We can be proud of the players. Everyone in Belgium, this is for them, thank you for your support and keep believing,” Belgium coach Roberto Martinez said.
“These players care. In the World Cup sometimes you want to be perfect, but in the knockout stage, it’s about getting through and the boys showed that incredible winning mentality today.
“You get pushed in games, you have to congratulate Japan, they were the perfect game, they were so solid, they frustrated us. They were clinical on the counter.
“And then it is a test of character, a test of the team and you have to see the reaction of the subs, the reaction everybody to get back in the game, to win a game 3-2 like this in a World Cup tells you everything about this group of players.”